4801 Spring Valley, Suite 115
Dallas, Texas 75244
The election rhetoric and craziness is over. What happened? After $6 billion dollars or so, hugely negative and nasty ads, people making promises and telling lies, according to the numbers, our country is as divided and potentially polarized as ever, yet the President and Congress remain essentially as they were yesterday. So it appears that nothing has changed. And yet, much has happened – not the least of which is that people engaged and they voted!
As I reflect on this election – a couple of things stand out to me very clearly. The first of which is nothing less than my gratitude for that fact that we have a right to cast our vote and participate in electing our leaders. There are countries all around the world where this is not possible. In addition, there are countries where voting takes place, but women are excluded. Thank you to all our foremothers and fathers, who helped everyone remember that men and women; rich and poor; gay or straight; disabled or abled; black, white, red, yellow or brown; are all part of one human family, and all have a part of building this nation.
I am reminded of all those who have fought, marched, suffered, and even died for our right to be and act like citizens of this country. I think it is so important that we remember that politics, elections and our governing systems and issues are not something we should simply be consuming through TV news, on-line blogs or FaceBook. Being a citizen means being clearly informed, critically questioning and actively engaged in making our country a better place for every person to pursue their inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Secondly, I reflect, on this day after an election that shows, once again, how deeply divided we have become, that the last time our country was this divided; we went to war with ourselves. Brother took up arms against brother and neighbor against neighbor. Families were torn apart as members fought on opposite sides. In the end, more of our own people were killed in what was the deadliest war America has ever been in. Thank God our current division is taken out in the polls, in our elections, and in our rhetoric, not our guns. I am so grateful, that as citizens, we can argue, fight, demand, march, petition, compromise, find solutions, and grow together. I trust that we remember how to engage in this conversation in the spirit of civil discourse. Using “civil” here to mean regarding our society but also using “civil” here to mean with decorum and respect for one another.
United we are so much more than those things that divide us. Let us unite in seeking and finding the third way which is larger than all our differences, and moves us forward in a positive direction. United let us we stand, bringing peace, harmony and power, not only to our own nation, but to the whole world. Then maybe the whole world can learn how to stand together.
5 days in the presence of 250 people who are determined to be part of making the world a better place has truly been inspiring and personally clarifying. We explored the intersection between spirituality and the crisis facing the world from 4 different angles -
Reconciling with the Other, Transforming Society, Embracing the Earth, and Rediscovering the Sacred. We had two days of sharing with people who self-selected into these 4 areas of interest, and then we had a day of conversation where each group was mixed with folks from each area.
I would not say that anything radically new emerged, although lots of amazing programs and the work people are dong in the world was shared. What did emerge, that was so extra-ordinary, was how each of these 4 areas are inextricably linked with the others, and that out of each area of concern, the same ideas, values, and areas to focus on emerged
Spiritually Motivated Social Engagement begins with our own deep spiritual connection to our own faith - the values, strength, commitment, and connection it brings us. We must re-discover the sacred within ourselves, each other, and in all of our work including business, politics, economics, educations, and finally in the world/earth we live in.
This then allows us to respect and honor "the other" including anyone and every living being and the planet, which, of course, radically alters our relationship to that other. We must stop making "them" out there, we are all one human family living on one planet in one great Cosmos.
This respect and honoring must begin and will not fully blossom until we have true gender equality, both within our own nature, between men and women, and in all our societies, cultures, faiths, business, political, education, and family systems.
This primary balancing of yin/yang heralds the balancing of all seeming opposites, taking out the "and" between them, and seeing the complimentarity which makes the whole: spirit/matter, inside/outside, male/female, sacred/secular, work/family, business/faith, economics/care, profit/sustainability, us/them, human/divine, God/me, etc, etc.
This respect and honoring is evidenced by living shared values such as nonviolence, compassion, humility, accountability, inner strength, connection with something greater, and engagement in the world based on listening and responsiveness. This means there are no easy answers nor does one size fit all.
This completely alters our view about transforming society and helping change the world. It's not about having the solutions or cookie cutter templates or even helping the disadvantaged. Rather its about facilitating the process of what is needed and wanted in any given particular situation, guided by the shared values, informed by respectful listening and conversation. A transformed society will only come about when we work at all levels: personally within as we deepen our spirituality; individually in our daily acts of conscious participation in our lives, our work and world, and on our planet; collectively when we have integrity, accountability and congruence with our shared values in how we operate in our families, in business, politics, education, and in the world at large; and globally when we stand for these values, expect them to be lived, and continually compassionately confront any place where they are missing
Particular emphasis was placed on the following no matter which area people where concerned with: spiritual deepening and living shared values; integrity, mutual respect, and spiritual consciousness must be reinvigorated in our education, business, and political models and ways of operating; That arts, beauty, and nature all contribute an opening to a new way; That the feminine must be as present as the masculine; that everything must take into consideration care for our planet; and that all people matter and must be listened to, respected, and included, especially our youth and our elders.
A tall order, but it's already being lived by so many people in so many places. Most work is being done outside of the normal channels and hierarchical structures. This seems to work better than trying to change things from within. Eventually those old structures either follow in line or simply collapse.
A Charter for Spiritually Motivated Social Engagement was worked on at the end of the conference, and when it is completed, I'll pass that along as well.
I rented a "quiet terrace apartment" for a week in Avignon. I thought by this time I'd be ready to stay put a little and also that I would feel rejuvenated enough to start working on my book proposal, or simply doing some writing. I had spent a lot of time researching each and every place I've stayed, so was really looking forward to being here.
Well, I had some trouble finding it, and when I did, I just about turned around and drove away. The house sits back from the street, that's true, but it's a main thorough fare through this suburb of Avignon. The long entrance is between two rough walls, past construction, into a dirt parking area that is surrounded by piles of construction material. The back side is piles and sheds of old construction material and off to the side is a somewhat fenced dirt yard with a dog and old stuff laying around. After all the beautiful places I've been, my heart sank!
I finally located the landlady, and she showed me the upstairs apartment, It's big and airy, lightly furnished, and colorfully painted and decorated. Clearly she's made an effort here. But the patio terrace isn't quiet when you can hear all the street noise and there's no place to walk or sit and simply be quiet. I told her I was disappointed, and she was disappointed by my response. Wow - how many times have I made things ok for someone else because I couldn't bear to hurt their feelings and let them know something isn't ok with me. I could feel my desire to make it alright for her start working, but. instead, I simply stated how I was feeling. We agreed to see how it would go.
So, now what? Well, it's all about expectations, isn't it? I had expected something very different. When it didn't meet my picture, I was disappointed. Each time we're confronted like this, we have two options. Change the situation or change the expectations. For the moment, I'm changing my expectation. The apartment works ok, and I just won't walk around outside. Rather than thinking of myself in Europe and France, I can think of it like being in Mexico, and that changes everything!
Thank God, I have a car. Originally I was going to do the whole trip by train, and I'd feel really trapped right now. I've already located two or three places within an hour or two that I want to explore. Ok, I can do that, and then I can work on my writing in the evening, when it's dark out and I can't see the outside anyway. If I stumble across a really cool place that has a vacancy, well then I might move as well, but I'm not going to count on it. So, not so bad. 12 hours of disappointment, with a new perspective on it this morning.
Isn't this what living a spiritually grounded life is supposed to help us with? Learn that so much of life is our perspective, and that is something we can always take charge of. We can get really twisted into knots when we don't realize that it's our expectation that has created the idea about how things "have to" or "should" be. Sometimes we have to start with how things are, and then we get to decide how we want to see it, be with it, and behave accordingly. This is one of the most profound ways of taking responsibility for life that I know. It just really isn't about trying making the landlady or the place wrong or wishing it weren't the way it is. Only I am responsible for my experience and my reactions to life, no one else. And only I am responsible for whatever decisions I make from the moment of the disappointed expectation. What do you do when you find yourself in this type of situation?
I'm enamored with the patchwork of cultivated fields and unruly woods of the French countryside. The land is crisscrossed with ancient walls and tumbledown houses in which people lead lives of modern convenience and rational purpose. it appears to me to be the perfect balance between order and chaos, which is always the most creative place to be.
Unrelenting order stultifies. Uncontrolled chaos disintegrates. Yet both are needed. And between the two is the magic space of perfect possibility. Look to the fields and the woods. There is a perfect order and symmetry to the changing of the seasons, yet we still can't tell the weather each day for sure. We can absolutely depend upon the growth of the seeds in the spring, but we can't say which particular seed will grow for sure. The fields provide an orderly place for life to be cultivated, while the woods provide shelter for life that flourishes without our help or interference. Without the woods we'd have no oxygen and without the fields we'd have no food.
Exactly so is it in our lives as well. We need the order of our goals, commitments, and choices. These provide direction, purpose and meaning to our days. Then we are living and using the spiritual principles and the Law of Cause and Effect to experiencing that which we have chosen. We also need our creativity, passion, and spontaneity. These provide expression, spirit and fire to our days. Then we are living and being Divine Love and the Presence of Life, expressing the joy of being and becoming. Too much order and we are stifled. Too much chaos and our lives are a mess. The deepest spiritual awareness I know, the most powerful spiritual living I can imagine, is to dance on the razors edge between the two. Won't you join me there?
Yesterday some friends came over for a lovely Fourth of July BBQ and pool party. This has become a tradition in our household and we love to celebrate holidays this way. Since I like to bring spiritual awareness into every aspect of my life, as people started to gather, I asked everyone “What are you declaring your “freedom from” on this day?” Everyone made their declaration of independence, affirming their practice of spiritual living, and off the party went.
We can definitely declare our “freedom from” things like old habits, the tyranny of our addictions, and stinkin’ thinkin’. This asserts our independence from the past and our reliance on spiritual living as the framework for our life. And, I wondered, what about the “freedom to”? Am I free to… Are you free to… you fill in the blank. While this could definitely turn into a political discussion or a moral contemplation, I was really thinking more in terms of spiritual living.
How many times do I say ‘I have to”? How many times do you say it? I have to brush my teeth, go to work, finish this project, be nice to my mother, meditate more, fix my life, and get my nail polish changed before someone notices it’s chipping. What if each time we said “I have to” we practiced changing it to “I am free to “or “I get to”? I am free to brush my teeth and have minty clean breath, and I am free not to brush my teeth and end up at the end of a dentist’s drill. Yikes! I get to go to work and bring home a pay check or I get to stay home and start looking for a new job. Hmmmm, maybe that’s something to think about if I really don’t want to go to work today. I am free to be nice to my mother, or not, if I’m learning to set boundaries and tell the truth about the elephant in the room. I get to take care of my nail polish or I can simply ignore other people’s opinions about the fact that it’s chipping and what that says about my mental, emotional, or moral state!
Recognizing that you are free to or not to makes you realize that everything is, in fact, a choice, even if it’s choosing something you don’t necessary love in service to a larger something that you do want to experience. And you discover, that yes, you really are free, to live your life any way you choose. What you get to choose is which consequences you are willing to live with, and which you are not.